Living In Thailand Blog
Thursday 30th January 2014
The carnage on Thai roads never stops.
These crashes shouldn't be referred to as accidents. This type of incident is inevitable when you see how many Thai drivers drive. Fortunately, no one was killed in this particular crash.
I've had good times in Thailand and I've had bad. At the moment, life isn't particularly easy or enjoyable. Our newborn son is still in ICU in a fairly serious condition, although he is getting better. The doctors and nurses have been great and my admiration for the Thai healthcare system continues to grow.
We visit the hospital twice a day and it is a fair distance with a lot of traffic. Also, my parents are staying with me and it isn't fair to keep them in the house all the time. I'm therefore doing lots of driving and there are few things I hate more than driving in Thailand. Many Thai drivers are aggressive and lawless, and the roads are very dangerous.
To make matters worse, the anti-government protesters have blocked one carriageway each of two main roads into town and yesterday they barricaded the main post office in an attempt to prevent people from voting. They don't care how much disruption they cause, in fact, their intention is to cause as much disruption as possible.
My wife told me that they are allowed to do what they are doing. I'm not sure if this is true. I can believe that they have the right to hold peaceful protests, but I find it difficult to believe that they are allowed to block roads and government buildings and that they have the right to prevent other people from voting.
With so much inequality in Thai society this kind of thing was predictable, but the current events have unfolded quite quickly.
When I first stepped foot in Thailand I could tell that a minority were very wealthy, but the majority were poor. What surprised me most was that there didn't seem to be any resentment among the poor.
I wrongly assumed that this was down to Buddhism, that is, your quality of life is a result of actions in past lives. If your life isn't good it is your own fault and there is no point blaming anyone else or being resentful. I was wrong.
I now think that the poor accepted the way things were because there was nothing they could to improve their lives. However, Thaksin and his populist policies changed their expectations.
Sunday 26th January 2014
I received a very welcome e-mail from a reader who commented that my entries about Thailand were balanced, whereas he found that other commentators on Thailand try either to paint the country as a heaven or a hell.
I have no axe to grind and no reason to be biased either way. I'm not trying to sell anything and therefore refrain from using the word 'paradise' in every other paragraph. Whenever I pick up an inflight magazine or tourist brochure which repeatedly describes the country as a 'paradise' it makes me want to throw up.
Some expats in Thailand are obviously boastful and try to make their lives in Thailand sound perfect, presumably to make other people jealous. I've also come across expats who are stuck in Thailand for various reasons, but hate it and don't have a good word to say about the country.
I try to be honest and objective. There is good and bad and there are good and bad Thai people. That can be said of every country in the world. The main difference in Thailand is good people get less protection from bad people because there is no, or very weak, enforcement of laws.
I countinue to be highly impressed with the Thai healthcare system. In a less developed country our son would already be a statistic for the number of newborn babies who die each year from pneumonia. He is now looking great and almost ready to come home.
The Neonatal ICU room at the local public (a project sponsored by Princess Srirasm) is referred to as a Centre of Excellence in Thailand and it is the best facility of its kind in southern Thailand. The doctors and nurses are all specially trained to deal with premature babies and full term babies with serious problems.
Everything that I buy in Thailand is made in China and goes wrong just after the one year guarantee has expired. That isn't the case in the ICU room, which is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment from the States, Japan and Europe.
The senior doctor was telling me that special gas needed to treat infants suffering from hypertension costs Bt150,000 per tank and that all treatment is free.
I was trying to think why the healthcare system in Thailand is so good and why so much time, money and effort has been invested. As with all things Thai-related, I have no definitive answers and can only guess.
Firstly, Thais are obsessed with being in a state of sabaay (being well, happy, comfortable). It seems to concern them greatly when they encounter someone who is mai sabaay - even if the ailment is minor.
I have lived in Thailand for over ten years and have been unwell on many occasions. If I am mildly unwell I am content to suffer for a few days while waiting to get better. I don't believe in always seeing a doctor or always taking medicine.
However, when Thais know I am unwell they always insist that I see a doctor and doctors always prescribe drugs. To be unwell and not to see a doctor seems to be something that Thais can't comprehend. My previous girlfriend, and now my wife, get quite angry with me if I am unwell and say that I don't want to see a doctor.
This mentality creates a big demand for hospitals, clinics and pharmacies and that is why there are so many in Thailand.
Secondly, medical careers are very popular choices for young Thais. The local university has faculties of medicine, nursing, pharmaceutical sciences, dentistry and traditional Thai medicine.
Medical students have good opportunities to find steady work and some can earn good money. The reason, I believe, is that it is about the only profession in Thailand where promotion and advancement opportunities are meritocratic.
There is so much corruption, nepotism and cronyism in Thailand that with many big companies and organisations people without money or family connections have no chance of progressing very far. However, with the right family connections someone without any experience whatsoever can find their way to the very top.
There are also a lot of small companies in Thailand that tend to be family run. The running of the companies is kept within the family and employees from outside the family don't get any opportunities.
In the medical field it seems that people are promoted on ability and this is how it should be across the board in Thailand. It is a lot fairer and there are a lot more opportunities for ordinary people.
In addition, a lot of doctors open private clinics to boost their incomes. Most work full time at a hospital and run their clinics during evenings and weekends.
Most salaries in Thailand are a joke and with the cost of living rising all the time many Thais are finding life difficult. A decent career in the medical profession gives some a chance for a better life.
The price that Thai medical professionals pay for a higher salary is having very little free time. I've met doctors that seem to be working every waking hour and the nurses work very hard.
There are three eight-hour nursing shifts every day. It is quite usual for a nurse to finish her shift and then be back at work eight hours later for another shift, and occasionally they have to work double shifts of 16 hours. I have enormous respect and admiration for Thai nurses, doctors and medical professionals.
With a child in ICU we have been visiting the hospital twice a day. The crowded, chaotic downtown area started to drive me crazy some years ago and we moved away from the madness to live in an area that was less likely to drive me insane. The downside of living further out is that we have a longer journey whenever we go downtown.
It wasn't too bad at first, but then the protesters blocked one carriageway of a main route into town. We changed our route and then found out a couple of days ago that they have done the same with another main road into town.
The roads in Thailand are already too congested and this sort of thing only makes it more frustrating for people who have to drive.
The protesters have barricaded government offices and have thus made it difficult (or impossible) for local people to do essential tasks. The German owner of a local restaurant can't extend his work permit, which is due to expire soon, and is not sure what the consequences will be of working without a valid work permit.
The saa-laa glaang, where work permits are issued, also issues passports for Thais. I therefore assume that Thais who desperately need a passport can't get one.
Their issue is with the Shinawatra family, who originate from Chiang Mai. Yingluck is now in Bangkok and her brother resides in Dubai, so we are told.
I doubt very much that making life difficult for innocent people 900km south of Bangkok has any effect on Yingluck at all and I can't really understand their mentality. It's like a little boy who has a problem playing football and bursts the ball so that no one else can play.
It's getting very boring and I am still very cynical about anything ever changing in Thailand. The justification for every coup is to counter corruption, but then the same old problems come back again a few years later. Why should it be any different this time round? Why has it taken so long for Thais to act against Thaksin?
Pasuk Pongphaichit and Chris Baker's biography provides some very interesting facts about Thaksin and his modus operandi goes back a long way.
Despite hearing often that Thaksin is a very clever businessman, his early business ventures were not successful. He became immensely wealthy very quickly by winning telecommunications concessions between 1988-1991 while Chatachai Choonhavan led th government, and he was helped by two people.
In February 1991 a coup brought down the Chatichai government, citing corruption as the justification. The two people who had helped Thaksin win the concessions were found to be 'unusually rich', one having accumulated Bt336.5 million and the other Bt32 million. Draw your own conclusions.
Corruption and Thailand are synonomous.
After Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, a previous Thai Prime Minister, died in 1963 he was found to have amassed a fortune of over Bt2.8 billion. That figure would be worth far more today. He owned 51 cars, lots of land, and kept over 100 mistresses.
Before Thailand had a centralised bureaucracy the country employed tax farmers to collect taxes. They weren't paid a salary, but kept some of the money for themselves - about 30%. Other people in positions of power kept about 10% from the transactions they were involved with. This was quite normal and voices were only raised if they took more than was expected.
These old ways continued even after the bureaucracy was reformed and officials started receiving salaries. It's the way that Thailand works. Big people have advantages over small people in Thailand society and big people are expected to use their positions of power to benefit themselves. This is cultural and not political, which is why I don't agree with all the calls at the moment for political reform.
There are certain things you can do or not do in Thailand if you want to stay out of trouble. One activity I would strongly advise against is renting a jet-ski. After your bit of fun riding around making a lot of noise in the sea there is a good chance that you will be accused of damaging the jet-ski and a demand will be made for money. These demands can be very threatening.
More carnage on Thai roads. You might think that drivers with the responsibility of transporting students would be more careful, but sadly that isn't the case in Thailand where drivers don't seem to have any sense of responsibility or accountability.
Wednesday 22nd January 2014
I think that the tourism industry accounts for about 7% of GDP in Thailand. A lot of Thais rely entirely on foreign tourism and they suffer when the trade is adversely affected. The current conflict is affecting the tourism trade and the economic damage is estimated to be between Bt500 million and Bt700 million per day.
I have met a lot of Japanese tourists in Thailand, but now many have stopped visiting. According to The Nation, around 1.4 million Japanese visited the Kingdom last year and they spent a lot of money.
When anyone starts messing with the natural laws of supply and demand it creates problems. Commodity prices fluctuate depending on various factors, but they are basically driven by supply and demand.
The Thai government's rice pledging scheme has caused lots of problems. An artificially high price above the international market price has resulted in rice being smuggled in from neighbouring countries, stockpiles of rice left to rot because it can't be sold, protests from growers of other crops who also want a guaranteed price, and discontent among many Thais who see the government mismanaging the economy.
Probably as a result of the current problems, rice farmers didn't get paid last week and now they aren't happy either. They have grown accustomed to receiving a very generous price for their rice and don't want it to stop. They have started blocking roads and demanding their rice back.
Ironically, some rice farmers who have done very well from this particular populist policy have now started to join anti-government protesters.
It's a mess.
Despite this, the government seems determined to continue with the scheme and in order to fund it wants to borrow another Bt130 billion.
Such a move will only add fuel to the anti-government protests, but whether this goes ahead or not isn't certain because a caretaker government cannot make financial decisions that will burden the next government.
As is the case with many Thaksin-influenced government populist policies in Thailand, they always seem to divide the country instead of uniting it.
Tuesday 21st January 2014
In certain parts of Thailand, such as the northeast (Isaan) region, there are very few opportunities for decent-paying work and therefore millions of Thais have moved to other parts of the country to find work. They go to Bangkok and also to those areas of the country that have a lot of tourism.
One visitor found this site by Googling, "How do I meet village girls from Isaan?" I added this question to my Thai girls FAQ and my answer was to book a vacation to Pattaya, which is full of village girls from Isaan.
I always make a point of talking to Bangkok taxi drivers and I like to find out a little about their background: where they come from originally, how long they have been in Bangkok, how many children they have, where their families live, etc.
Most of the taxi drivers I have spoken to come from the northeast, and most people from the northeast - which is the poorest region of Thailand - support Thaksin. In addition, Bangkok taxi drivers as a profession have a reputation of being ardent Thaksin supporters.
While in Bangkok briefly over the weekend I was expecting to find that taxi drivers were rabid Red Shirts who would tell me how good Thaksin was and how bad the protesters were for wanting to oust Yingluck. My plan was just to agree and not to argue or say anything that might upset them.
However, that wasn't the case. The drivers I spoke to were thoroughly good people and all I heard were the voices of reason and common sense.
For starters the protests have made their lives very difficult because of the blocked roads and, even at the best of times, being a Bangkok cabbie isn't the most relaxing job in the world.
The driver who picked me up at the airport couldn't take the normal route to the hotel and had to find an alternative because roads were closed. I was staying near Victory Monument and just before I arrived there was an explosion at Victory Monument.
He told me not to go to the protest sites, not to go out at night, and suggested that if I met any protesters that I should just speak to them politely. Actually, if I met any my plan was to make out that I couldn't speak any Thai.
He told me that there were lots of nuk leng (thugs) who just wanted to stir up trouble and they simply saw this as an opportunity for some anarchy.
As I was travelling alone with my two year-old daughter, I had no intention of going anywhere that might be dangerous, but I appreciated his honesty and concern. There will no doubt be more problems soon.
Another driver told me that both sides were wrong and what they needed to do was to sit down together, work out their problems, and devise a way forward. Instead, both sides arrogantly claim that they are right and they refuse to talk to each other. Thais like this should be politicians, not taxi drivers.
The most pleasant driver of all took me back to the airport for my flight home to the deep south. He was a policeman, but he is forced to moonlight as a taxi driver during his days off as his salary is so low. He was from Nan province.
He was married with a five year-old daughter and proudly showed me a photo of her when I asked her name. He drove without any of the anger that so many Thai drivers have and just seemed like a really nice guy. His take on the situation was baa (crazy).
To be honest, I was quite surprised at what I heard. After watching so much whistle-blowing nonsense on TV it was reassuring to actually hear some common sense from ordinary Thai people. They are quiet, but if you go beyond the crazy scenes that the media is covering you will find a lot of Thais who are bored with what is going on.
As soon as I got home after taking one child to see a doctor in Bangkok I had to go straight to the local hospital for an update on our other child, who is still in quite a serious condition.
Once more the traffic was chaotic, this time because the road outside the District Hall (Amphoe) had been closed for yet more protests. The protesters have blockaded the District Hall so that the staff there can't do their work.
This kind of thing makes me feel very uneasy. Many Thais pay lip service to Western style democracy when things are going in their favour, but they don't really believe in it. As soon as they can't get their own way they resort to military coups or anarchic behaviour to get their own way.
I can fully understand their grievances with the government, but I can't agree with their actions and until the root causes of the problems are properly addressed, I don't believe that simply ejecting one government and replacing it with another will fix the underlying problems in Thai society.
I have met so many good Thais recently. It certainly helps spending a lot of time in hospitals because I have always found Thai medical professionals to be thoroughly decent, educated, intelligent people.
But not only in hospitals. Everyone I spoke to in Bangkok last week was full of reason and common sense, including hotel staff and taxi drivers, and I also met some great people on the flight back. It was the first time I had ever travelled alone with a young child and people's reactions to me were completely different compared to travelling as a single man. I guess that single men can appear threatening, whereas that threat disappears when a man is taking care of a young child.
My neighbours have also been fantastic. They have given us lifts, helped my parents take care of our daughter while we were doing hospital duty, and our next door neighbour gave us three palm trees worth Bt9,000. These have greatly improved the view from my office window.
Ethnicity and religion aren't problems in Thailand. We had a few problems with the obstetrician for our daughter and changed when my wife became pregnant for the second time. This doctor is one of the most wonderful, caring human beings I have ever met. His parents came from China and he is first generation Thai.
The neighbours who have helped us most are Muslim. My first Thai girlfriend was Thai Muslim and I have met many good Thai Muslims. There are many reasons for the problems in the south and there are also disaffected people who just try to disrupt society as much as possible. It isn't simply about religion and good Thais get on fine together, regardless of religion.
The following book, which I read last year, provides a lot of information on the background to the troubles in the south.
I really don't know what's going to happen next and I don't know how long this will go on for. When I watch the TV news and read Internet reports the events are always sensationalised because this is what attracts viewers and readers. It always looks really bad.
However, when you talk to normal Thai people who aren't out on the streets waving flags and blowing whistles another picture emerges.
Thais are a pragmatic race and there is a strong unwritten code of not upsetting other people's rice bowls. One of the taxi drivers was telling me how this has really started to hurt people financially. The Baht continues to get weaker and investor confidence continues to diminish.
I hope that common sense and reason prevail and that Thailand can find a way forward as a united country again.
Saturday 18th January 2014
The Land of
Smiles Contrasts, Contradictions and Frustrations.
A reader sent me an e-mail a few years ago and was very quick to point out that I had contradicted myself. This will always happen whenever you generalise about Thailand, as we all tend to do. We all talk about Thailand as one entity, when in fact it is many entirely different things in one geographic region.
What Thailand do we mean? Do we mean the turquoise seas, white beaches and limestone karsts of tourist Thailand, which exists, but which has no resemblance to real Thailand? When we talk about real Thailand, do we mean First World Thailand or Third World Thailand, which exist side-by-side throughout the country?
The entire country is described as a Newly Industrialised Country (NIC), but general descriptions and observations are completely inappropriate for Thailand because it is many different things in one place and whatever you say about one aspect of Thailand will contradict other aspects.
This past week has been one of the most difficult of my life, and the difficult period isn't over yet. Our son was born with severe breathing difficulties and in many lesser developed countries he would no longer be here. He is still in hospital.
I have always been highly impressed with the health system in Thailand and my admiration continues to grow. In the past week we have seen state-of-the-art ICU facilities for newborn babies and have met the most wonderful, dedicated, caring, competent nurses and doctors.
In every single aspect the medical care our son has received has been First World and First Class.
On the other hand, I have had to endure the type of the Third World behaviour in Thailand that I hate most. The driving standards in Thailand are so appalling that I normally drive only when really necessary. I avoid driving during busy times and I never drive at night unless I really have to. The general level of lawlessness on Thai roads goes to another level once the sun sets.
Obviously, I have not been able to do that this week and have driven as much in one week as I normally drive in two months. I find it difficult to describe how much I hate driving in Thailand.
Not only is the high-speed, reckless, lawless style of driving dangerous to those who do it, but the aggression, impatience, intimidation, bullying, selfishness and complete lack of any consideration for anyone else makes it dangerous and unpleasant for everyone else.
Traffic laws are ignored and the only law in force on Thai roads is the law of the jungle. It's dog eat dog. There is never any courtesy, no one gives way to anyone else, and there is no lane discipline. The objective is to get ahead of everyone else and Thai drivers do this by using the lane with least traffic and then forcing their way into the lane they want. Right of way depends on the size of the vehicle, with smaller vehicles being forced to give way to larger ones.
Thailand has the second highest number of pickup trucks in the world (after the USA). I would imagine that because the population is smaller, the country probably has the highest per-capita number of pickup trucks in the world.
When I first arrived in Thailand I thought the reason for so many pickup trucks was because the country was still quite agricultural and that people used them for work. But that isn't the case.
After a while I realised that most trucks have nothing in the back, and as soon as I started driving regularly I discovered that the most aggressive drivers drive pickup trucks. Aggressive Thai men, of whom there are many, like these big, oversized pickup trucks because they can bully and intimidate other road users with them.
The behaviour on Thai roads is ugly and when you then realise that there is no law enforcement to protect other road users it can start to get quite frightening.
Another Third World Frustration this week has been with the way that Thais park their cars and trucks. Basically, they just park outside wherever they want to go, block a lane in the process, and turn on their hazard warning lights. They don't care how busy the road is; they only think of doing what is convenient for them and have no consideration for other people.
These stark contrasts exist side-by-side in Thailand. The hospital is in a part of town that is 'Third World Central'. The whole area around the hospital, and the behaviour of many of the people there, is ugly. One minute I'm in an excellent ICU facility with intelligent, professional staff, and the next I'm trying to cross a road where maniac Thai peasants seem just as intent on destroying lives as the doctors and nurses inside are intent on saving lives.
At times the contrasts, contradictions and frustrations of living in Thailand almost drive me insane. How can some things be so good and some things so bad? Why is nothing done about the Third World behaviour? Why aren't laws enforced? After ten years I understand some things and I partially understand other things, but certain aspects of Thai behaviour still mystify me.
There is never any getting away from the belief system in Thailand. This has nothing whatsoever to do with Buddhism. It predates Buddhism and probably goes back to a time when Thais were hunting mammoths to gin with their kaaw.
I wrote previously about how I sat down for a chat with my wife's parents and older brother while she was still pregnant. They looked into my eyes and told me with complete sincerity that the two most important things for success and happiness in my son's life were choosing the right name and choosing which day of the week he was born.
He was due on a Thursday, but my wife insisted that he was born on a Friday before 9am. This was of extreme importance to her and thus she told the doctor to bring the delivery forward by six days. I don't know why she did this instead of waiting one more day.
At the time of delivery she wasn't well and the infection in the baby's lungs most probably came from her. No one will ever know if it would have been any different had she allowed the baby to be born when it was ready, and I certainly don't blame her, but when the belief system starts to interfere with the natural order of life it isn't always good.
I sometimes just wish they would let things happen naturally instead of doing things according to astrology and fortune tellers.
The politics here is something that I don't really like to think about. It makes me angry, and being angry about something that you have no control over isn't good. I try to ignore it, but at times this is impossible because what happens affects me as well.
I have to take my daughter to Bangkok tomorrow for a hospital appointment. Under normal circumstances this wouldn't be too bad, but some parts of Bangkok are now looking like war zones. Bombs and grenades have already been used and before this has all finished there will be a lot more people killed and injured. It's the Thai way.
I've been watching updates on different TV news channels and the term 'civil war' keeps popping up with alarming regularity.
One TV report from inside a Red Shirt encampment showed pro-government supporters putting together a cache of weapons in readiness for later. There were machetes and large knives, and there are an estimated 10 million illegal firearms in Thailand.
Thailand is a violent country and many Thais are extremely volatile. Such people do not have the ability to analyse situations or to resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner. When they don't get their own way the red mist descends and they then try to kill people.
I sympathise with Thais at the bottom of society who have very little in life and no opportunities to improve their lives, and I agree that something has to be done about corrupt, self-serving politicians who are only in it for themselves.
What I can't agree with is the way that protesters are trying to change things if the country has already decided to implement a system of electoral government. Organised anarchy and insurrection have no place in the style of government that Thailand has chosen.
I've had a really tough week and it occurred to me that while these protests are going on there will be babies born in Bangkok with life-threatening problems. Bangkok has some great hospitals but if roads are blocked will the whistle-blowing, naive, misguided protesters realise that they could be preventing doctors from saving lives? Do they even care?
The other thing that irritates me is that I keep reading the term 'political reform' when the basic system of government has been proven elsewhere and isn't really the problem. What is needed in Thailand is societal reform in order to redistribute wealth and opportunities more evenly.
In a country which has both a system of one-person-one-vote and a huge downtrodden rural population this kind of thing was inevitable eventually. If Thaksin hadn't started this, someone else would have done so sooner or later.
Educated Thais are now frustrated because they see problems with corruption but they are powerless to do anything because the same politicians keep being elected time after time whenever an election takes place. This has been the case ever since Thaksin first came to power. He was clever in winning the hearts and minds of the rural poor and soon became unassailable via the ballot box.
Thaksin is obviously still guiding his sister and this is why she is so insistent that another election will go ahead next month. They know who will win, but if that happens the situation will then revert to how it was before and things will continue to go round and round in circles.
I don't believe that all people are equal and it is my view that socialism conflicts with human nature and cannot work. However, I do believe that all men are created equal. People should at least have the same opportunities in life, and whether they take advantage or squander those opportunities is up to them.
The problem in Thailand is that many elite Thais don't think like this. For many Thais, their lives are mapped out at birth and many will have no opportunities in life. This is why quite a few seek new lives abroad. Some are very capable, but never get any opportunities in Thailand.
My Thai friend who moved to the US 35 years wouldn't have fared well in Thailand, but he has had a good life in the States. He's back in Thailand now and has already decided that he will stay in the States after he retires instead of moving back to his birthplace. The States gives him opportunities but Thailand gives him none.
One of the first girls I got involved with in Thailand contacted me by e-mail last year. I was amazed to hear from her. She was a typical Isaan country girl with a son being looked after by her parents in Isaan while she worked in massage shops - and later bars - to earn money to send home.
She met a Norwegian guy while working as a Phuket bar girl, married him, went to live in Svalbard and has become a successful businesswoman. She runs the world's most northerly Thai restaurant and, I believe, a massage shop. Even Thais living there working as maids do very well.
There seems to be a belief amongst some middle-class Thais that the lower classes are utterly useless and that it is a waste of time trying to educate them. Some are, and to some extent I can understand their arguments why the system of one-man-one-vote isn't appropriate for Thailand.
However, everyone should at least be given an opportunity for a better life and it shouldn't be a birthright that applies to some people but not to others.
Until such time as everyone starts to get some genuine opportunities in life I can't see the political situation in Thailand getting any better. If this ever happens, it will take a very long time. Even if things go quiet later this year the same problems will remain and sooner or later they will come to the surface again.
The Thai health system has shown me that if Thais have the will to do something right they have the ability to do it. I don't want to live in a divided country with so much conflict. There is nothing I would like to see more than for these problems to be resolved, but before that happens there has to be societal reform and some major shifts in people's attitudes.
Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.
One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. Each link on the right will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region. Agoda hotel rates are usually always the lowest and I have received good customer service, therefore I am happy to recommend the company to other people. Here is some analysis I did regarding booking hotels in Southeast Asia.
Booking.com used to be more expensive than Agoda, but when I have checked hotel prices recently I have found their rates to be quite competitive. Unlike Agoda, you don't need to pay at the time of booking with Booking.com - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, Booking.com show you total prices whereas Agoda show you a price and then add on 17% for tax and service charge.
If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined.
Images of Thailand